A Better Way to Brainstorm

About Candor

Brainstorming is by far the most common technique companies use to generate new ideas and find creative solutions to organizational problems. Brainstorming is so popular because fifty years of management advice has taught us to believe in the power of group synergy. We’ve been taught that by working together on a problem, a group can come up with more ideas than the same individuals can produce working alone. Unfortunately, this advice is dead wrong. Decades of research have consistently shown that groups that brainstorm think of far fewer and less diverse ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas. In fact, some data suggests that traditional brainstorming can cut innovative output in half.

Brainstorming fails because we are social animals. Data shows that in typical brainstorming sessions, people spend more time thinking about group dynamics than generating new ideas. In psychology this process is known as groupthink. So how can we capitalize on the collective wisdom of the group without succumbing to groupthink? The answer is private data collection.

Bias-free brainstorming

The key to successful brainstorming is to first have people generate ideas privately before discussing them in a group. To be most effective, people should submit their ideas to the group before they have heard anyone else’s point-of-view. Research shows that collecting ideas privately before group discussion produces far more diverse ideas and leads to better solutions than the typical approach to brainstorming.

How to use Candor

Candor was designed to allow you to quickly collect and organize the independent ideas generated by your brainstorming team. To use Candor, follow these four steps:

  • Step 1: send your question or problem to the members of your brainstorming team.
  • Step 2: Have each individual submit his or her ideas to the session organizer.
  • Step 3: Meet as a group and have the session organizer reveal all the ideas the team independently generated.
  • Step 4: Organize the ideas by theme and debate the merits of each theme.